Guess who stole the show twice this year?
I’m usually not the kind of person who likes to advocate a company “winning” a conference like E3 or Gamescom. If anyone “wins” it’s the respective developer for their game. Has there ever been a “Best of Show” award for entire presentations? Maybe that could be used as a reasonable yardstick for measuring victories between companies like Sony, Microsoft and EA.
That being said, with Ubisoft not holding a dedicated press conference this year, Microsoft was clearly the star.
"No TV shows, very little Kinect – just games, games and more games. More importantly, they were games we would have liked to buy and no shortage of variety at all."
It’s hard to believe that the company which faced so many controversies over DRM, indie gaming, eSRAM, resolutions and so on could have had not one but two great conferences in a row. It began at E3 2014, shortly after Phil Spencer took over head of the Xbox division and promised nothing but games at the biggest show of the year. No TV shows, very little Kinect – just games, games and more games. More importantly, they were games we would have liked to buy and no shortage of variety at all.
This was the scenario at Gamescom as well. While Microsoft wasn’t announcing new projects left and right, it still stood out with a few indie game announcements, Rise of the Tomb Raider’s timed exclusivity, in-depth gameplay for Quantum Break and new details regarding Halo: The Master Chief Collection and Halo 5: Guardians.
It was a good 1.5 hours’ worth of gaming information and relatively important reveals to keep us hyped about the console well into the New Year. Heck, we even got to see more of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s single-player campaign and received an open beta date for Evolve.
"Sony seemingly forgot about the PS Vita and Project Morpheus, marking a royal snub to the former and a rather baffling absence of the latter."
By contrast, Sony seemed to have been determined to shine the spotlight away from its major AAA releases and on to its indie games. Yes, we’re excited about WiLD and Alienation, and even slightly intrigued about Hellblade, but it’s a shame that games like The Order: 1886, LittleBigPlanet 3 and Bloodborne received a decreased focus at Gamescom.
Not only that but Sony seemingly forgot about the PS Vita and Project Morpheus, marking a royal snub to the former and a rather baffling absence of the latter. With all the mutations that the PS Vita has been going through – from an overpriced collection of gimmicks to portable PS3 to “portable” PS4 (via Remote Play) to indie machine to cross platform medium – it’s utterly amazing that Sony chose to ignore it like this.
The handheld isn’t doing badly either as it still competes fairly well against the Nintendo 3DS in Japan. By not emphasizing games, much less acknowledging the handheld’s existence (unless you count the stupendously stupid Vita TV), Sony risks telling existing consumers that they simply don’t matter.
We’re not exactly big fans of EA’s presentation either. This time around, we thankfully received more gameplay footage of upcoming titles and a decreased presence of sports titles (though FIFA 15 and NHL 15 still took up a significant amount of time).
"The real tipping point was Battlefield: Hardline. Unlike Sledgehammer Games, Visceral didn’t choose to do a separate multiplayer reveal followed by some campaign footage."
Dragon Age: Inquisition looked great but Bioware’s Shadow Realms felt like an extremely damp squib. All that hype for a free to play multiplayer title with bland visuals? Again, we’d like to play it before judging it but the whole “four versus one” mechanic is being done a lot better somewhere else.
And as much as EA wants us to get excited about The Sims 4, it just doesn’t make for great presentations. It didn’t help that we witnessed the birth of a virtual Peter Moore, shirtless and tattooed, whose sole goal in life was to be consumed by a horse plant. Is this how we’re wasting time at conferences now? With jokes that only the company men and women will find funny?
But the real tipping point was Battlefield: Hardline. Unlike Sledgehammer Games, Visceral didn’t choose to do a separate multiplayer reveal followed by some campaign footage. No, we got an extended – and I mean extended – look at Battlefield: Hardline’s single player mode. On the one hand, it introduced some much needed mechanics to the experience. On the other hand, we weren’t impressed. Would it have been so difficult to showcase an extended look at the multiplayer, especially the new modes that were announced, since everyone will be buying the game for this anyway? You could then probably do a small smidgeon of highlights from the campaign. Regardless, EA’s conference was a vast improvement over E3.
Microsoft still “won” the contest at Gamescom and impressed us not only with their ability to market upcoming titles but by introducing new efforts, generating headlines and somehow finding a way to balance it all out – with nary a mention of Kinect, motion gaming or TV shows in sight. We’ll see how Tokyo Game Show 2014 pans out, especially since the Xbox One will be entering the Japanese market this September, but hopefully this momentum will continue into 2015.